I think it’s wise to invest into your education, and language learning in particular. You might have to give up a few beers or coffees every month, but that one good book, app, or online resource may easily make the difference in how fast you progress.
That doesn’t mean that there is no high quality material for Japanese learners that is free, but it certainly takes quite some time to find it, and to use it properly.
To save you time, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite free resources below:
Kanji and Vocabulary
If you’re a dedicated learner and have the time and determination to spend perfecting your reviewing habits and environment, Anki is by far your best choice.
The software can be tricky to use at first, but there’s a thriving community ready to help, and the spaced repetition algorithms make it a very efficient tool, especially if you’re looking to learn Japanese intensively using sentences instead of individual words and kanji.
Memrise is an online spaced repetition vocabulary learning website. It’s not language-specific, and you’ll have to spend some time compiling a good Japanese deck (as those shared by other users tend to be lacking compared to the content available at Anki), but the interface is very pleasant to use and there’s an equally vibrant community around the website.
Part grammar reference, part Japanese textbook, Tae Kim’s website is a classic. The grammar guide is not the easiest to navigate, but it covers most beginner-intermediate grammar, including colloquial variations, and is available in many different formats and languages.
Imabi is a relatively new website, sporting a rather spartan user interface, but the sheer extent of grammar covered in the mini-lessons (you’ll find everything from complete basics to Japanese used in classical literature), the clarity of the explanations, and abundance of example sentences make it the perfect replacement for JGram, my previous online Japanese grammar reference of choice.
The best online EDICT dictionary with tons of unique features and a functional user interface. Search kanji by radicals, filter through the results with utmost precision, look up example sentences, create exportable vocab lists and more.
Tagaini is an open source application based on the EDICT database by Jim Breen from Monash University which is also used by most online dictionaries. While the content itself is in no way special, the software is very well done with some unique features, especially in the kanji search department.
italki is an online language learning service where you can find the best language teachers from around the world. Take a lesson when and where it is convenient for you. All you need is an internet connection.
Write Japanese, get corrected by native speakers, help others in return. One of the first, and certainly the most successful site of this kind. Try to write regularly and take the time to understand the corrections and your writing ability will improve in no time.
For listening and reading, NHK News is the place to go. There’s new content every day, it’s well adapted for learning purposes, and it saves you time as you won’t have to read the news in your native language.
The new addition to the excellent Stack Exchange network, Japanese Language and Usage is the place to ask your intermediate-advanced grammar questions. Don’t forget to do a quick search first, as much has been answered in great detail already.
If you’re looking for even more tools and places to learn, check out my list of 100 resources to learn Japanese and if you’re ready to give up a few lattes to learn faster and easier, be sure to visit LinguaLift.